This is what I woke up to as my daughter sucked her tummy in lying beside me and showed me her ribs. It's been something she's been saying for a few months now. My response is often, 'No you're perfect". Or "it's just your body type. Some people are shorter and a little bigger. Some people are taller and smaller."
Then she says again, "No mommy. I'm skinny." Then I'll say, "Don't worry babe. You're healthy. You eat a lot of healthy food. Your mommy and daddy and tall and thin." And then once she even said "my friends said I'm skinny".
I don't talk about my body much. I never complain about being too skinny or too fat. I don't obsess about food. I indulge in treats with her. I don't even have a scale at home. She never sees me weigh myself. It's weird. She hasn't gotten this "I'm skinny" thing from me. She often comes to work with me and we talk about being strong and building muscle jokingly. That's about as far as any conversation about body goes. So where did she learn that she's skinny?
At school of course. Kids at school obviously talk about their bodies. But I think it's more. I think body image obsession is infiltrating our daily life through images, words (radio).
This morning I came across an article in the NYT titled "The Fat Trap".
"By the time my own daughter was born, I realized that avoiding conversations about food, health and body image would be impossible: what I didn’t say would speak as loudly as anything I did. So rather than opt out, I decided to actively model something different, something saner. I’ve tried to forget all I once knew about calories, carbs, fat and protein; I haven’t stepped on a scale in seven years. At dinner I pointedly enjoy what I eat, whether it’s steamed broccoli or pecan pie. I don’t fetishize food or indulge in foodieism. I exercise because it feels good, and I never, ever talk about weight. Honestly? It feels entirely unnatural, this studied unconcern, and it forces me to be more vigilant than ever about what goes in and what comes out of my mouth. Maybe my daughter senses that, but this conscious antidiet is the best I can do.
Still, my daughter lives in the world. She watches Disney movies. She plays with Barbies. So although I was saddened, I was hardly surprised one day when, at 6 years old, she looked at me, frowned and said, “Mama, don’t get f-a-t, O.K.?”
So many women I work with can recite conversations they had with their mothers about weight even it they took place decades ago. I just hope I'm saying the right thing and that I'm supporting my girl in feeling great just the way she is.